Fewer than a fifth of domestic abuse incidents reported to police led to a charge or summons, figures show today.
Lancashire Police recorded 5,265 allegations in the six months from July 1 to December 31 last year.
But a Freedom of Information disclosure shows only 954 were charged or summonsed, while a further 253 perpetrators were given cautions. Rachel Horman, domestic abuse lawyer and campaigner, today said: “It’s absolutely appalling. The response to domestic violence and stalking seems to be getting worse rather than better.”
A mum who fled to a refuge in the county to escape her abuser has revealed her frustration that offences against her predated new laws to protect victims – meaning her ex-husband won’t be charged.
Police said 504 of the cases were closed as there was no line of enquiry to follow.
But there are several reasons cases did not make it to court, including five perpetrators being under the age of criminal responsibility, and two dead.
A Lancashire Police spokesman reiterated the force could only secure charges on CPS advice.
He said: “We are committed to securing justice for all victims of crimes of this type and we will continue to work closely with partners like the Crown Prosecution Service in order to achieve that.
“Officers and staff of Lancashire Constabulary are trained to deal with all reports of Domestic Abuse in the most appropriate manner.
“Anybody can be affected by domestic abuse and anyone can be an abuser. It doesn’t just happen to women – men can be and are victims too, whether their partner is a man or woman. Abuse is a control issue – abusers believe they have the right to manipulate, control and humiliate another person.
“We hope victims will continue to come forward and report these crimes to police safe in the knowledge we will deal with them professionally and sensitively.”
However, the CPS today said the police were responsible for investigating offences and deciding if there is enough evidence to refer a case to them to charge a person.
A spokesman said: “The police are responsible for investigating offences, diverting offenders (including cautioning offenders), charging and referring certain categories of cases to CPS. Where a police decision maker considers there may be sufficient evidence to charge a suspect in a domestic abuse case, the matter should be referred to CPS to determine if a suspect should be charged.
“A prosecutor must then determine whether there is sufficient evidence and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute a suspect. Police officers can issue a simple caution without reference to the CPS in many cases, although prosecutors may be asked for advice on the suitability of using a simple caution disposal at any time and when a case is considered by a prosecutor they can recommend to the police that a caution is appropriate.
“In domestic abuse cases referred to CPS in Lancashire between 1 July 2016 and 31 December 2016 for a charging decision a prosecutor recommended a caution in 0.45% of cases, that is out of a total of 1,348 domestic abuse cases a prosecutor recommended a caution in six cases.”
Rachel Horman, chairman of Paladdin National Stalking Advocacy Service, said: “The response to domestic violence and stalking seems to be getting worse rather than better.
“There seems to be a culture of complacency with some officers and if we are not careful we will be back in a situation we were in in the 1970s when domestic violence was seen as a private matter that should not involve the police.
“Lancashire Constabulary have done good work in improving that response to domestic violence however this seems to be deteriorating and is something is highlighted in the FOI request and that I am very concerned about.
“Cautions should rarely be used in DV cases and the reason case’s don’t continue is often because victims say that they do not feel supported by the police. “The police often seem to put the victims off pressing charges when in reality they decision should never be with the victim and should be taken by the police and crime prosecution service
“The police are currently being audited by HMIC in relation to their response to stalking and I expect that this will highlight the terrible service generally being given to stalking victims as well as domestic violence victims.”
‘Jane’ was once a confident young woman with a successful career and a wage of £30,000 a year.
Little by little, her controlling husband took away her independence, her money and her contact with her family and friends.
While some victims of domestic abuse suffer physical violence, Jane underwent six years of emotional manipulation and living in fear of her domineering spouse.
Though she finally found the courage and support to break free a year ago, she and her son have been left without a home - and the knowledge her partner cannot be prosecuted because a recent change in the law happened too late for her.
The offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship only came into force in 2015.
Jane, 32, explains: “Because what he did predates the new laws about coercive control, no legal action could be taken against him. Mine is one of many cases where he can’t be charged I was told.
“But I believe he will be brought before the courts one day because he will do it again. I feel stuck that my case didn’t go to court. I don’t know how to pursue it. But I know that now they can take into account my history with him when he does it again.”
Jane has spoken about her ordeal as figures highlight just how few perpetrators are brought to court. In a six-month period in Lancashire, more than 5,000 incidents were reported, but less than a fifth were charged - a figure today branded “appalling” by campaigners.
Jane recalls the pattern of abuse started when her partner arranged to move them to another county at short notice without asking her.
She says: “It was the first step of isolating me from friends and family.
“He was the typical, charming, really caring man and I quickly became attached. We were trying for a child for a long time and I suffered several miscarriages.
“I was on a good wage when I met him but then he didn’t allow me to work.
“After a while he decided he did not like me being at home not knowing what I was doing so I had to go back to work.
“I was earning money but I had no control - I was allowed £20 a week for parking. He even rang the car park firm to check it was £4 a day.
“Somehow I managed to stash it for a long time but would panic about him finding out.
“He started to control my food. I put on weight through my pregnancies. He would scream at me it was time I lost weight and went to the gym.
“But as soon as I did get motivation and start feeling good about myself he would knock me right back down. I started wearing dresses for work and he told me I was fat.
“I’d got to work and he’d want me to send him a picture of what I’d eaten for breakfast. He made me believe I had bulimia.
“Yet everyone, even my best friend, thought he was lovely.”
It was a marriage counsellor who warned her how much danger she was in.
She adds: “I became terrified of everything - if I was two minutes late home, if I left my nail polish out on the side. His eyes were enough to scare me.
“But I didn’t have family I could just go to. I could have stayed in a nice house and a nice job but I wanted my sanity.
“It was a living nightmare. I couldn’t make a decision about a packet of crisps. He told me if I tried to leave he’d get me sectioned.
“I was at the point where I was desperate for him to cheat on me so I’d have an excuse to go.”
She contacted an independent domestic violence advisor who gave advice on how to leave and helped her find a refuge place. It took three phone calls before she worked up courage to meet her advisor and then to leave.
She remembers: “I was on pins. I call it my day of freedom. I had gone to the banks before hand telling them what I was doing, and managed to redirect my mail.
“He had a works party and he had bought me a dress but decided I looked too ugly in it. So I grasped the opportunity.
“For months I had kept an emergency bag at my neighbour’s who realised what was going on.
“It was all hands on deck, I packed up every room, as much as I could with my family helping, and put some in a storage unit.
“I had booked a hotel hundreds of miles away as I was so paranoid about being found. My son was ill and it was the weekend of the floods, it was awful but I knew it was my only chance.
“I changed my phone and e-mail.”
The 32-year-old stayed in three refuges in Lancashire and Cumbria.
She explains: “I had to get food parcels at one point. But I am ambitious and determined, I’m on a journey of healing myself.
“I was stuck in a tiny flat on benefits which I hate and am struggling to find work. I never thought I’d be in this situation.”
Jane has sadly since discovered she was the fourth woman her husband had manipulated so aggressively.
She says: “I sought support from his exes afterwards. I had no idea at all what had happened to them at the time, because even when you hear rumours you’re caught up in it.
“We have all been really strong, confident women who have been torn apart. He left us feeling worthless.”
• Anyone affected by this story can call police on 101 or Preston Domestic Violence Services on 01772 201601.